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Who is best-placed to challenge Manchester City next season?

Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to defend their title during the 2018/19 campaign.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City were crowned as Premier League champions on Sunday afternoon after Manchester United suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of struggling West Bromwich Albion.

Pep Guardiola’s team have ripped apart the top-flight of English football this season with a devastatingly effective style of play that has left their rivals struggling to hold on to their coattails.

City are currently 16 points clear of second place with five games still to play and now have the opportunity to break the 100-point barrier as the season comes to a conclusion.

Here, The Boot Room evaluate which top-six team is best placed to challenge Manchester City’s dominance next year.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester United

There are currently mixed feelings around Old Trafford regarding how Manchester United have performed this season and the long-term direction of the club under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.

A failure to maintain the astonishing pace set by Manchester City has left supporters having to be content with a top-four finish and FA Cup semi-final whilst there has been a deluge of criticism aimed at the pragmatic style of play utilised.

Mourinho remains one of the best managers in world football and he is still in the process of moulding a team in his own image.

The Portuguese maestro has already spent big in the transfer market, as demonstrated by the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku over the past two years, and the club are expected to make further significant investments in the summer.

He needs to find the missing piece to the Manchester United jigsaw and that will mean addressing the lop-sided defence, demonstrated by Ashley Young’s emergence as first-choice left-back.

Mourinho has overcome Guardiola in the past but there will be no room for excuses next season if, after two years of building a team, Manchester United are unable to challenge their cross-city rivals.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur have continuously improved year-on-year under the stewardship of Mauricio Pochettino but you still feel that the club is some way behind their rivals in terms of winning the Premier League.

Spurs have a young, dynamic squad of players that play fast, attacking football and, in Harry Kane, they possess one of the best strikers in the world right now. However, something is still missing and it is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is.

Perhaps it is simply a mental issue? Tottenham have not won a league title since 1960 and last secured silverware of any kind almost a decade ago – do the current group of players have the right mentality or experience to enable them to maintain performances over the course of a full campaign? Their upcoming FA Cup semi-final may provide an insight later this month.

Whilst you feel that Tottenham will always be in and around the top spots next season, it is difficult to see them overcoming Manchester City without significant investment or Pochettino uncovering the magic formula.

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Chelsea

Chelsea have offered a feeble and limp defence of their title this year and still face a scramble to secure a place in the top-four.

Things have clearly not been right behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge and Antonio Conte is expected to depart the club in the summer after spending much of the season snipping at the Chelsea hierarchy.

Regardless of who the Italian’s successor is, it is widely expected that the club will bounce back.

Under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, the Blues have continuously maintained their standing as one of the leading side’s in the country and you would imagine that the Russian oligarch will be keen to reclaim their crown next season.

Chelsea will spend big in the summer to ensure that they build a squad capable of challenging Manchester City and a striker will be top of the new manager’s wish list. Alvaro Morata made a positive start to the campaign but has struggled for form and fitness in the second half of the season.

If the Blues can make the right appointment in the dugout and strengthen significantly on the pitch then history suggests they will be in and around the top spots.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Liverpool

Since arriving at Anfield in October 2015 Jurgen Klopp thrown himself into the task of restoring Liverpool’s status as one of the leading club’s in Europe.

Each transfer window has seen the squad steadily improve and you now feel that the German has built a team that is capable of challenging for both domestic and European silverware.

Liverpool have a reputation for producing attacking, dynamic and exciting football and the attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino possess an abundance of pace, power and creativity.

Under the stewardship of Klopp, the team have always looked capable of scoring goals but have regularly been criticised for being undermined by defensive fragile and frail.

However, the signing of Virgil Van Dijk in January, the emergence of John Robertson and the new-found confidence of Loris Karius appears to have put some of those concerns to bed – Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets in their last 12 matches in all competitions.

Klopp will continue to develop the squad during the summer and, as proven by their historic victory over Manchester City, the Reds are certainly heading in the right direction.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Arsenal

There has continued to be a degree of frustration and dissatisfaction around the Emirates Stadium this season as Arsenal have continued to fall behind their rivals on the pitch.

The Gunners are currently 33 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League are relying on winning the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League next year.

The club under-performed last season, failing to qualify for Europe’s premier competition, and the decline has continued over the following twelve months with supporters becoming increasingly frustrated with Arsene Wenger’s failure to consistently secure positive results.

The same old problems persist – there is a lack of leaders, a lack of quality in central defence and no commanding midfield player.

Wenger has brought together an exciting forward line that possesses pace, power and experience with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan arriving in January to complement the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and a fit-again Danny Welbeck.

However, Arsenal continue to be undermined by prevalent weaknesses throughout the remainder of the team and there are currently a world away from competing with Manchester City.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

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Could Arsenal’s new project lure Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles to London?

The Newcastle captain had a terrific debut season in the Premier League.

Liam Thomas

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Jamaal Lascelles
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Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles enjoyed a terrific debut season in the Premier League and as such has found himself the subject of many transfer rumours since the window reopened on the 17th May.

However, according to the Chronicle Live, it would take a hefty transfer fee to make Newcastle part ways with one of their prized assets and captain.

Despite this, Arsenal should consider making a move for Lascelles to strengthen their defence and there’s no hiding the fact new Gunners boss Unai Emery is concerned about his sides defensive frailties.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

At 24 years of age, Lascelles has the youth and energy needed to survive the harsh Premier League calendar and this is something Arsenal’s defence has lacked in recent seasons; a defence which under Arsene Wenger became lazy and lax.

New Arsenal boss Unai Emery has already invested in Borussia Dortmund’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos to strengthen his back line, but it might take a considerable amount of persuasion to convince Lascelles to follow suit and make the Emirates stadium his new home.

However, it’s not every day a club of Arsenal’s statue come knocking, and to be part of the clubs new exciting chapter may be the perfect antidote to lure Lascelles away from St James’ Park.

“Nothing changes. The speculation might not even be true. Since I was a kid, there’s always been teams interested, speculation, paper talk and stuff on Twitter, and things like that. It doesn’t mean anything to me.”

Newcastle captain, Jamaal Lascelles, regarding the speculation surrounding his future.

But what would Lascelles bring to Arsenal back line? Leadership and stability, two traits that Arsenal’s centre back duo of Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi ultimately lacked throughout the 2017/18 Premier League season and two qualities that the Gunners desperately need to be reincorporated into their defence.

It remains to be seen whether or not the new Arsenal boss will break the bank to bring the talented centre back to North London. However, there are not many other defenders in Europe who could come in and do the job as well as the 24-year-old Newcastle captain would.

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Six ins and outs Arsenal could complete this week

The Gunners continue to be extremely active in the transfer market.

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Unai Emery’s rejuvenation at Arsenal is well underway ahead of the 2018-19 season and the next week could be a busy time in north London.

The Gunners have already signed five new players, totalling around £71.1 million, according to TransferMarkt, and may now shift attention towards offloading some within the squad who are deemed to be surplus to requirements.

However, plenty of rumours still float around to suggest that Emery’s spending spree is far from over and Arsenal fans may be set to welcome further arrivals at the Emirates Stadium, with rumours suggesting that more midfield additions are targeted.

With suggestions that deals could be agreed imminently, we have rounded up the latest reports to identify a total of six deals the Gunners could agree this week.

Rodrigo Bentancur: Juventus

Arsenal have already signed one Uruguay ace this summer in the form of Lucas Torreira but are now reported to be eyeing a deal for Juventus’ Rodrigo Bentancur following his performances at the World Cup, Gazzetta Dello Sport state.

The 21-year-old is rated as one of the finest young players within the ranks of Massimiliano Allegri’s Serie A winning side but has struggled for regular playing time due to the wealth of competition that Juventus have at their disposal.

While Arsenal also have a strong midfield, which includes the likes of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey, the departures of Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere have left the Gunners lacking depth, which should provide Bentancur with enough playing opportunities.

(Photo by Odd Andersen/Getty Images)

David Ospina to Boca Juniors

Signed following the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, David Ospina has never done enough to secure a spot as Arsenal’s undisputed first-choice goalkeeper and the signing of Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen leaves the writing on the wall for the Colombia international.

The Mirror state Arsenal will accept a fee of just £6m for the experienced goalkeeper and South American giants Boca Juniors are interested, although his agent admitted to El Crack Deportivo that a deal would be difficult to secure.

“The possibility of Boca is something we have already spoken about, but right now it is not economically possible for a club like Boca to pay that much for a goalkeeper.”

– Lucas Jaramillo, Ospina’s agent, on a potential transfer.

Andre Gomes: Barcelona

Andre Gomes has had a difficult few years at Barcelona since signing from Valencia after Portugal’s European Championship win in 2016 and an exit for the 24-year-old looks likely to take place before the start of the new LaLiga season.

Spanish outlet Sport state an exit for Gomes is close after he was left out of Barcelona’s pre-season squad for the tour in the United States, although they name Juventus as potential rivals in the market for the Gunners.

New surroundings could be what Gomes needs to get his career back-on-track, although fans will be concerned about his form in recent years and whether he would be good enough to challenge the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Lucas Torreira for first-team action.

Nacho Monreal to Real Sociedad

One of Arsenal’s finest performers last season, Spain international Nacho Monreal has exceeded expectations in recent years by remaining as one of the most crucial players within the squad – but his services are being eyed this summer.

El Gol Digital state Monreal is the number one priority for Real Sociedad as they look to bolster their defensive line following the sale of Alvaro Odriozola to Real Madrid, although there is no indication that Arsenal are open to a sale.

However, Monreal’s contract at Arsenal is due to expire at the end of the season and that may lead the Gunners to be tempted to approve a deal.

(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Max Meyer: Free agent

22-year-old Germany international Max Meyer is a free agent after his contract at Schalke came to a close and The Sunday Express, in their printed edition (15/07), suggest that a fight for the midfielder’s services will emerge from within the Premier League.

Arsenal and Liverpool are said to be preparing to go head-to-head to land the highly-rated young attacking midfielder, although Bild stated earlier this month that his demands of £4m-a-year had led both English sides to end their interest.

With Arsenal having already lost Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla, the Gunners would benefit from a bargain like Meyer in the market – especially with Aaron Ramsey’s future still uncertain.

Joel Campbell to Lazio

After six loan spells in seven years at Arsenal, it is easy to forget that Costa Rica international Joel Campbell is still on the books at the Emirates Stadium but a permanent departure for the 26-year-old could be right around the corner.

Serie A giants Lazio, fresh from losing the services of Felipe Anderson to West Ham, are said to be eyeing a move for the versatile forward to bolster their ranks ahead of the new campaign, reports from Bola VIP say.

While Arsenal lack depth in the wide areas, Unai Emery is unlikely to call upon the services of Campbell this season and a sale makes sense for all parties.

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Three Arsenal youngsters who could help England bring football home in 2022

The Gunners’ academy continues to develop some of the very best youngsters.

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Arsenal
Photo: Getty Images

After a successful tournament got the nation dreaming, England fell at the penultimate at the World Cup and may require Arsenal‘s help in 2022.

Gareth Southgate’s youthful squad exceeded pre-tournament expectations and suddenly Greg Dyke’s objectives for the 2022 World Cup seem within grasp – and the Three Lions now have four years to build towards glory in Qatar.

Come November 2022, when FIFA has confirmed the World Cup will commence, Southgate is likely to call upon a number of the players who starred for the Three Lions in Russia but changes to his squad are also inevitable.

“The two targets I have for the England team are – one, to at least reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and two, win the World Cup in 2022.”

– FA Chairman Greg Dyke reveals his ambitious plan in 2013.

Fortunately, English football is breaming with exciting young talent at the moment and Arsenal may hold the key to success with three of their most highly-rated prospects.

Eddie Nketiah

Bursting onto the scene in November 2017, Eddie Nketiah became an instant hit at the Emirates Stadium after netting twice against Norwich City in the Carabao Cup. Since then, the 19-year-old forward has gone on to make three Premier League appearances.

Competition for places at Arsenal is fierce, particularly following the captures of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the past 12 months, which means he may have to be patient to get his chance – but the situation is entirely different on the international stage.

In four England U21 appearances, Nketiah has scored two goals, per TransferMarkt stats, following on from eight goals in eight games at U18 level and four goals in two games for the U17 side. In just over a year, Nketiah rose to Aidy Boothroyd’s U21 ranks from the U17’s and shows no signs of stopping his rise.

(Photo by Bertrand Langlois/Getty Images)

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Becoming a regular for Arsenal in Arsene Wenger’s final season at the Emirates Stadium, Ainsley Maitland-Niles showed his versatility by catching the eye playing as a full-back. His natural position is in midfield though and this is where he could be of value to England.

It is fair to say that England’s options in the middle of the park sitting in front of the defence are extremely limited, with neither Jordan Henderson or Eric Dier doing enough to cement their spot in the position for the long-term.

Maitland-Niles could become the man England are looking for in the coming years and further first-team experience with Arsenal looks set to follow under Unai Emery, as the 20-year-old penned a new long-term deal with the Gunners last month.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Reiss Nelson

Arsenal fans have been excited about 18-year-old Reiss Nelson for a while now and saw the teenager break into the fringes of the first-team last term, as Whoscored data shows he finished the campaign with 15 appearances across all competitions.

Eight of those opportunities came as a starter, including two in the Premier League, and there is every chance Nelson could earn further action under the guidance of Unai Emery next term – especially as Alex Iwobi has not done enough to warrant continued action.

Should the Nigeria international continue to suffer with poor form, the eight-cap England U19 international could be Arsenal’s breakthrough star of the year – following in the footsteps of players like Maitland-Niles, Jack Wilshere and Hector Bellerin.

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